Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has widened her lead over Republican Donald Trump in Michigan as 3-in-5 likely voters say the New York businessman is not qualified to be president, according to a new poll conducted for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV.
Clinton led Trump 41 percent to 32 percent in the statewide survey of 600 likely voters conducted Saturday through Monday following Clinton’s formal nomination at last week’s Democratic National Convention.
The poll contains many troubling signs for Trump’s White House campaign, including a “shocking” lead for Clinton in the Republican strongholds of west and southwest Michigan, pollster Richard Czuba said.
Sixty-one percent of likely general election voters said Trump is ill-prepared to be the nation’s commander-in-chief. The figure grows to 67 percent among women, a group with whom Trump performs poorly. Clinton has a commanding 21-percentage-point lead among female voters.
“He’s sitting in the cellar right now, and they’re going to have to do something to dramatically turn this around,” said Czuba, president of the Glengariff Group Inc. polling firm. “If I were a Republican running on this ticket right now, I’d be beyond nervous.”
Since Republicans left Cleveland on July 22 following their national convention, Trump has become embroiled in a series of controversies. He has lashed out at the parents of a dead Army captain who questioned his fitness for office and refused to endorse Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in a congressional primary Tuesday in Wisconsin.
Trump’s behavior has caused Republican Party leaders to publicly plead with the candidate to get back on message about the weak American economy, homeland security and Clinton’s record as secretary of state.
“I know that there’s a lot of numbers that matter in politics, but Twitter followers still don’t trump poll numbers,” Michigan Republicans strategist Greg McNeilly said, referring to Trump’s social media-based campaign around 10.6 million Twitter followers. “He should stick to his stronger, more secure and more prosperous America message.”
Clinton has increased her lead over Trump since May when Glengariff Group surveyed a three-way race including Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. In that survey, Clinton led Trump 37 percent to 33 percent, a 4-percentage point gap.
The new poll shows Clinton’s 9-percentage-point lead shrinks to 7 points in a head-to-head match-up against Trump.
Bobby Schostak, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, said the polling in Michigan is likely to change this fall as voters get a closer look at Clinton and Trump in three presidential debates.
“It’s early August. We’ve got a lifetime in front of us before November,” Schostak said. “I think this is going to ebb and flow to a great degree more than normal.”
Pollster: GOP has ‘troubles’
In west and southwest Michigan, Clinton is ahead of Trump by 5 and 6 percentage points, respectively, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s daylong trip to Kent County last Thursday — a week after the Republican National Convention — was “an illustration that they know they have troubles,” Czuba said.
“If your vice presidential nominee is spending an entire day in west Michigan after the convention,” the Republican region is not locked up, he said.
In Michigan’s March 8 primary, Trump lost the 2nd, 3rd and 6th congressional districts in west and southwest Michigan to Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Democrats are boasting a stronger presence in the changing political culture of Grand Rapids. On Friday, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine is scheduled to open a coordinated campaign office in Grand Rapids.
Some jittery GOP voters say they won’t vote for Trump and are throwing their support behind Johnson, the former Republican New Mexico governor who gets 7.5 percent support in the telephone operator survey.
Johnson’s support in the Detroit News-WDIV poll almost matches his 7.4 percent average in RealClearPolitics.com’s compilation of nationwide polling data.
In the May poll, Johnson received 11.5 percent support in Michigan.
The new survey shows Johnson is eating into Trump’s GOP base with 10 percent of Republicans in west Michigan and 16 percent of likely GOP voters in Livingston, Monroe, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. Johnson also garnered support from 14 percent of Republican men statewide.
“He’s playing a game of subtraction right now,” Czuba said of Trump.
The New York real estate magnate’s support is strongest in Macomb County and northern Michigan.
The poll found 30 percent of self-identifying Republicans are not voting for Trump.
John Waugh of Lansing described himself as a Republican who is leaning toward Clinton, citing the country’s relatively strong economy in the 1990s under her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“I really don’t think anybody’s talking about how good the Bill Clinton years were — how much money everybody made — and I don’t see how it would be much different with Hillary,” said Waugh, 38, who works in juvenile detention.
57% say Clinton qualified
A 61 percent majority of those polled within the past week said Trump is not qualified to be president compared with 39 percent for Clinton. She is judged to be qualified by 57 percent of those surveyed.
Sandy Cashat of Shelby Township described herself as a Republican who supports Trump and could not vote for Clinton.
“I think she only talks, only promises, but is not going to do anything,” said Cashat, 23, a student and dental assistant. “Donald Trump is not like any other president who’s only talking. I know sometimes he goes on and on, but I think he will understand his job.”
Sharon Gooding, a 64-year-old Democrat from Harper Woods, said she plans to vote for Clinton because her policies “hold up to my values and how I live my life.”
Gooding, who participated in the poll, called Trump “awful” and said she thinks he is unfit to be president.
McNeilly said the poll numbers aren’t overwhelmingly positive for Clinton either. The poll’s sample included 44 percent of voters who identify as Democrats, 34 percent Republican and 18.5 percent independent.
Clinton should have a double-digit lead over Trump following four straight nights of positive and nationally televised speeches about her at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, McNeilly said.
“For Clinton to be under double digits that close to her convention is a big warning sign,” he said. “But that doesn’t whitewash Trump’s challenges. He certainly has a lot of issues that he needs to address in order to win by addition.”
Czuba also said Trump needs to change his strategy if he’s going to have a chance of becoming the first Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988 to win Michigan in a presidential contest, Czuba said.
It appears Trump will try to get back on message Monday when he delivers a speech to the Detroit Economic Club.
“When 61 percent say you can’t do the job, they’re not even willing to have further conversations with you,” Czuba said. “The first thing the Trump campaign has got to do is have a conversation with voters that gets them to believe that he can handle the job.”